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"How Do You Know...?"

Posted on Friday, April 21, 2006 at 07:23PM by Registered CommenterMarshall Massey in , , | Comments3 Comments

When, at the department store where I work, I first announced my plan to walk from my North Omaha home to Virginia, most of my co-workers had very nice things to say. (Well, this is the upper Midwest. We’re nice to one another here.)

One of my co-workers, though, overcome by a momentary loss of inhibition, shook his head and said, “You’re crazy.”

A couple of my relatives (non-Quakers) have had similar reactions: they don’t see much good in what I propose to do, but they do see many dangers I might face walking solo through the hinterlands. Accordingly they have real doubts about my basic common sense.

Then there’s the Quaker community. Here I mostly get support — even, in many cases, enthusiastic support. But I also get the occasional Friend who tells me, very sweetly, “You don’t have to do this, you know. You can call it off.” And there are also Friends who have worried aloud that I might be doing this walk for self-aggrandizement — for attention, or a heightened sense of importance.

All these responses come down, in one way or another, to a concern about the nature of the thing that moves me to do this. Is it insanity? Foolishness? Stubborn self-will? A need for stroking?

Perhaps the most constructive way in which I’ve heard this concern expressed was the way it was put to me by another member of my monthly meeting, last November, and again by a New York City Friend last week. “How do you know it’s a genuine leading?” they asked.

Such questions of course have a make-or-break significance for my walk. Had I not been able to address them in a satisfactory way, at least among Friends, my proposed walk would probably not have passed the test of group discernment, I would not now be receiving the support I’m getting from Friends, and the walk would not now be about to happen.

But beyond that, a number of you may already have recognized that these are questions pivotal to Quakerism as a whole. They are a way of asking whether the divine is truly as Quakerism represents it: a more-than-force that can teach the faithful how to walk through the world and can give the prophets right words to say. They’re a way of asking if there is any way we can ever really know what God wants of us, or if all claims to know are self-deception. If such questions cannot be satisfactorily answered, the whole basis of traditional Quakerism falls to pieces.

Thus these questions belong to the class of questions that every Friend needs to be able to answer — not just me.

I do have my own answers to these questions, and I intend to present them here some time in the next few days.

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Reader Comments (3)

Marshall, We have never met, but I do “know” you from the many posts that you so carefully made on soc.quaker (when I was still reading it years ago). I also look forward to the occasional article that you have in a Friends publication.

I’m very happy to see you blogging. In addition, the circumstances for such blogging are intriguing. I do not mean to “lift you up” in your own eyes, but I do appreciate what you have shared and will share as thee is lead.

Liz mentioned in the comments in a previous post of yours that there is a map somewhere of where you will be walking???

From what little I know of the circumstances it does seem in good order. It is such an important issue: how do we know that we are lead? The question itself leads to other questions such as what and where do our faith and practice come from, and where do these lead us to go.

In any case, I will be looking forward to future updates, and you are definitely in my prayers!

-- comment posted by Joe Guada, http://beppeblog.blogspot.com/
April 21, 2006 at 9:18 p.m.
Sep 2, 2006 at 10:04AM | Registered CommenterMarshall Massey

Hi Marshall,

I’ve just hit upon your blog. Let me also offer my words of encouragement and prayers for your journey. I look forward to your updates and am curious to learn more about your specific leading. Do take care, and be sure to take along some good rain gear!


-- comment posted by Rob, Consider the Lilies
April 22, 2006 at 1:25 p.m.

Sep 2, 2006 at 10:06AM | Registered CommenterMarshall Massey
In this comment, I catch up with your postings. So I shall just note from my own past experience, that
* when one has those flashes that reverberate through their being and the truth of it is so utterly and totally prevasively,
* when one’s inner sense is so devoid of anxiety or conflict and the clarity of it cannot be any more pristine and crystal clear,
* when there is that slightest smile that then comes from knowing beyond knowing — that there cannot be any other possible path or action than this

— then the Way is clear.

Now some of us may have had this once in life, twice, many times. When we met our spouse, when we decided to take that job, quit that job, make a move, meet someone. Even just to take a walk. So how to replicate that perception to the frequent, so that even our “mundane” life’s actions are characterized by it? Ahhhhhh …

Let me offer a clue. What was the Bible’s comment that described Moses? God says that he was the most humblest man that walked on the face of the earth. I suggest that the observation that the meek shall inherit the earth is intwined with this notion. What is it about being the ultimate humble being?

Lack of ego.

If I can omit [not merely suppress] my ego, if I can dissipate it, then I can “tune in” to the messages that are always ringing in my ear, if I but stopped whistling my own tune. To accomplish this?

Among other answers: practice.

Opportunities to practice? At the elevator, on the street, at the stop sign, in the line at the post office, ah, our cup runneth over with opportunity. Ego helps us to understand that we have a place to get to — while in our humbleness we may realize that we are already there.

-- comment posted by Steve Evans, http://sevansgsm-usa.com/
May 12, 2006 at 9:56 p.m.
Sep 2, 2006 at 10:08AM | Registered CommenterMarshall Massey

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